Server upgrade boosts service delivery in Oakville

A server upgrade for the Town of Oakville, Ont. has resulted in faster, more efficient service delivery for its citizens.

To improve service delivery Oakville’s IT department recently moved from Microsoft Windows Server 2000 to Microsoft Virtual Server 2005 R2 to support about 1,000 users spread across 35 buildings, according to Jeff Lanus, Oakville’s acting director for information systems and solutions.

“Some of the older applications had been operating on older machines that really didn’t justify the cost of an upgrade on a hardware platform,” said Lanus. “Going to a virtual environment applications actually ran faster.”

Oakville tested the Linux-oriented VMware environment, but ultimately went with Microsoft primarily because “we are not a Linux shop,” he said.

“We don’t have a lot of Linux expertise, we actually did purchase the VMware product, we have it installed, but for larger rollout and disaster recovery,” Lanus said. “We didn’t see it as being supportable.”

The first phase of the Virtual Server upgrade was completed more than a month ago and Oakville is now concentrating on their disaster recovery environment.

Disaster recovery planning is an additional benefit with Virtual Server, according to Lanus. Planning before the upgrade was primarily imaging and backing up to tape.

“The new environment we’re working on is another virtual cluster of servers at our disaster recovery site,” he said. “If our primary computer centre goes down or there’s an issue with that, the applications will go into the recovery site automatically.”

The upgrade will also mean improved services for Oakville’s citizens, said Hilary Wittman, Windows Server product manager at Microsoft Canada.

“The Town of Oakville, like any municipality, is very cost-conscious and looking to improve quality of service for citizens with limited IT resources,” said Wittman. “Windows Server really was the best option for them because they wanted to be able to have all of the benefits that a moderating operating system would provide.”

This focus on service delivery is something well understood by Lanus, who said that Oakville’s residents are becoming increasingly tech savvy.

“A municipal study in 2004 found that the computer adoption rate and access to the Internet is very high in Oakville,” he said. “So the requirements and requests for services online are growing every year, and we’re finding that our biggest growth is serving their needs.”

In addition to serving citizens needs, it also benefits the all important bottom line and Oakville was able to save $25,000 in the first phase of the upgrade, according to Lanus.

Planning ahead is also key because municipal IT departments should be anticipating future needs, according to Wittman.

“What municipalities should be thinking about is what their long term plan is,” she said. “When they’re choosing their virtualization platform they need to be thinking three to five years out.”

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